Youku Signs DreamWorks Animation Streaming Deal

Alibaba Group’s digital entertainment arm has struck a deal with Oriental DreamWorks to bring animated hits such as the latest in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise to Chinese viewers via the internet.

Youku Business Division, which is a part of Alibaba’s Digital Media & Entertainment Group, signed the three-year licensing partnership for a bundle of family-focused content from the joint venture between Jeffrey Katzenberg-backed DreamWorks Animation and Chinese investors.

From January, viewers can watch the films and TV series via Alibaba-owned online streaming sites Youku.com and Tudou.com, as well as through Tmall Box, the set-top box developed by Alibaba’s home-entertainment unit.

Youku BD President Yang Weidong said this was the largest family entertainment deal his unit had struck and is part of a larger push to extend its reach in China’s digital entertainment market.

“The newly acquired family content will enable our platform to play a more important and integrated role and also add the benefit of enhancing our business within the OTT (over-the-top) space,” Yang said.

While the deal extends the previous licensing agreements for films such as the Kung Fu Panda and Shrek franchises, Youku BD said yet-to-be-released feature films, including How to Train Your Dragon 3Boss Baby and Captain Underpants, are a key part of the deal. TV series Blackstar, Casper’s and the upcoming Troll Hunters are included in the agreement as well. Further releases are expected over the course of the partnership.

Youku BD has content partnerships with Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate to stream their movies through OTT service Tmall Box Office.

Alibaba continues to expand beyond its core e-commerce business into the entertainment, media and sports sectors, among others. In October, Alibaba Pictures Group announced a strategic alliance with Amblin Partners, the Hollywood content outfit led by director and producer Steven Spielberg. Spielberg and Katzenberg, along with American entertainment mogul David Geffen, formed DreamWorks Studios in 1994. DreamWorks Animation was spun off in 2004.

The two companies are expected to collaborate in the marketing, distribution and merchandising of Amblin Partners movies in China. Alibaba Pictures will also have the option of co-financing Amblin Partners films worldwide.

More from Alizila: Alibaba Pictures President Zhang Wei talks about the Amblin Partners collaboration.